Time has caught up with the L’Oréal-owned chain, and both investment and new ideas are needed.
What’s wrong with The Body Shop?
Nothing much really. If you want cocoa butter or raspberry-flavoured lip balm, it’s as good a place as any to stock up.
It also has an ethical halo around it, meaning that you’re saving the planet, or something of the kind, while you do so.
There is only one problem with what it does – it is very similar to a lot of other cosmetics retailers, and it lacks a significant point of difference.
The plain fact is that when it started, The Body Shop was on somewhat of a crusade, and it set itself apart from many other retailers by promoting the prevention of animal testing when producing cosmetics.
The pine-fresh ambience and wooden fittings contributed to the natural aesthetic of the retailer.
Today the beauty areas of most department stores have similar offers to The Body Shop, and then there are standalone merchants such as Lush that have also inevitably taken some of the market share.
The latter is aimed at a more youthful demographic than The Body Shop, with its core selling product being the ‘bath bomb’ – a bit of fun to produce fragrant bubbles and leave a tidemark around the tub.
‘‘The decision for owner L’Oréal therefore, is whether to go ahead and update a chain that others have caught up with (and in a number of cases overtaken), or to get rid of it”
This does give it a point of difference and ensures a steady stream of shoppers.
The interiors of Lush branches are also different – generally dark with highlighted zones and a lot of chalked blackboards – promoting a schoolroom vibe and, yes, more fun.
This is perhaps what is needed for The Body Shop, which has a feeling of earnestness and relatively little joy or surprise.
It could have both, but money would have to be invested to refashion its image, which would take time to put into effect.
The decision for owner L’Oréal, therefore, is whether to go ahead and update a chain that others have caught up with (and in a number of cases, overtaken), or to get rid of it.
Beauty continues to be a growth category according to most surveys, but this does not mean everything that falls within its ambit will work.
Care, and a reason to visit a store over others, continues to be the prerequisite for success.
L’Oréal may not have the appetite for either the change or investment that is needed.